The Buffalo AKG Art Museum opened its doors to invited guests on Monday, and to the general public on Thursday, giving the Buffalo community its first look at the museum since it was closed for construction and restoration in 2019.
Formerly known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the museum was rebranded to the Buffalo Albright Knox Gundlach (AKG) Art Museum in honor of its three major donors: John Albright, Seymour Knox II and Jeffrey Gundlach.
The museum has several new additions, including the Ralph C. Wilson Town Square — a community space for events and gatherings — and the Jeffrey E. Gundlach Building — a 30,000-square-foot gallery space.
Upon entering from the back entrance into the Town Square, visitors are invited to look upwards at “Common Sky,” a glass roof designed by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann. Along the sides of this space is the gift shop, tables with games and the AKG’s new restaurant, Cornelia. The space provides a warm, fresh welcome to the museum.
From here, visitors are directed up the stairs into the original 1905 Robert and Elisabeth Wilmers building, which underwent restoration during the museum’s closure.
The work of notable artists such as Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso and Edgar Degas can be found in the Wilmers building. These galleries are an art historian’s dream; the work in the collection spans more than 100 years of art history and displays a wide range of styles and subjects.
After wandering through the maze of galleries and passing through to more contemporary works, visitors encounter the John J. Albright bridge to the new Gundlach building.
The John J. Albright bridge and Gundlach building are still under construction. They’ll be closed from June 22 until July 20 to wrap up construction and the final touches. The Knox and Wilmers buildings will remain open during this time.
The bridge opens up to the second floor of the Gundlach building, where one can walk around and take in the views of the surrounding Delaware Park and the rest of Buffalo.
The galleries in the Gundlach building are filled with larger-than-life contemporary works. These works are an inspiration for artists and non-artists alike, with many works sparking conversations about the current socio-political climate.
On the ground floor of the Gundlach building are several gallery spaces dedicated to American painter Clyfford Still. Still developed a close relationship with Buffalo and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and donated 31 paintings to the museum in 1964. This installation in the Gundlach building features all of Still’s paintings that have been donated to the collection over the years, along with grand-scale prints of photographs of Still from the museum archives.
Empty gallery spaces can also be seen on the ground floor of the Gundlach building, which will soon showcase the Nordic Art and Culture Initiative, featuring works from the Nordic region. The museum plans to expand this collection over the next 60 years to develop the largest collection of work from this region in North America.
After viewing all of the galleries the museum has to offer, visitors circle back to the Town Square to visit one last gallery: the M&T Bank Gallery.
The gallery’s centerpiece is a sculptural installation titled “Mirrored Room” by Lucas Samaras. Guests can enter the room and enjoy the view of their reflection being cast in hundreds of different directions. This work is interactive and prompts viewers to reflect on themselves.
The museum has embraced that this installation is a great selfie spot, complete with a hashtag to share your pictures with. Guests are invited to reflect on their experiences in “Mirrored Room” by recording them in a photo booth or writing them down instead. Pictures of visitors from years past line the front wall, while TV screens display contemporary viewers and their #mirroredroom selfies.
On either side of the M&T Bank Gallery are studio spaces for workshops and classes, and a family room.
The AKG expansion project brings a refreshed art collection to Buffalo, with high hopes of attracting visitors worldwide to this astonishing collection.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The museum is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. General admission is $18 for adults with a discounted rate of $16 for college students.
Emma Stanton is a former senior creative director and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org